New York, New York, February 9, 2024 — 100 Days since the Pakistan government announced the return order of 1.7 million Afghans, the International Rescue Committee warns over half a million Afghans face a bleak future forcibly displaced within Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Afghan refugees seeking to come to the United States through Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), P-2, and family reunification cases will endure additional challenges in their pathway to resettlement. IRC programs continue to serve displaced Afghans regionally, including at the Torkham Crossing, and many others pursuing family reunification cases across our 28 US offices.
With skyrocketing humanitarian needs and food insecurity, Afghanistan has moved from the headlines into the sidelines, risking being a forgotten crisis. The IRC fears that time is running out before the next deepening humanitarian disaster and remains committed to serving Afghans inside the country while helping them rebuild their lives.
Prior to Pakistan’s return order of Afghan nationals, Afghanistan’s humanitarian needs were already skyrocketing, the nation's consistent economic turmoil and isolation from global resources kept it a fixture in the Emergency Watchlist. Afghanistan currently hosts over six million internally displaced people, placing massive strain on a country with a fragile economy and limited healthcare infrastructure. Beyond its borders, the Afghan SIV program meant to protect Afghans who were affiliated with U.S. missions has been plagued by backlogs for more than a decade. The P-2 refugee process - a designation to protect Afghans who were not eligible for SIVs but had worked with the U.S. government, NGOs, and media organizations - has also resulted in massive protection risks for Afghan nationals since it requires them to go to a third-country consulate, having to face the de-facto government’s security at border crossings. Pakistan’s return order highlights the danger of forcing refugees to spend long waiting periods in fragile countries to get access to resettlement. Thousands of other Afghans who were also evacuated to the U.S. during Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) are also facing challenges of their own as they await the passing of the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would provide them a pathway to lawful permanent status.
The world cannot afford to lose attention on Afghanistan, which is still reeling from decades of conflict, economic crisis, continued drought and recent devastating earthquakes. Afghanistan remains a country in which a toxic mixture of poverty and the consequences of decades of armed conflict have shaped its recent history as a nation. At a time when funding is dwindling for Afghanistan, we urgently need the international community to step up support so that humanitarian organizations like the IRC can continue to provide shelter, food, and healthcare for these vulnerable communities in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. This should include increased support for the humanitarian response as well as vital programs like the World Bank’s Afghanistan Resilience Trust Fund to support an expansion of projects to meet basic needs and help people recover from crises, including health, livelihoods, agriculture, and education programs.
Refugee resettlement, including through UNHCR referrals, the SIV, and Afghan P-2 programs, and adjustment legislation, should all be one component of a broad and robust humanitarian strategy to protect those fleeing for safety and those who cannot leave Afghanistan but have critical basic needs to be met. The IRC calls on the Biden administration to address case processing delays for Afghan SIVs and P-2s, increase transparency with Afghan applicants and the general public, implement reforms to the Afghan P-2 program to increase applicant access, surge processing capacity to decrease processing time, expand eligibility, streamline processes, and improve inter-agency communication between the Department of State and USCIS. The IRC also calls on Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act to provide Afghan allies who were paroled into the U.S. legal certainty in their ability to stay in the U.S. for good and be able to rebuild their lives from scratch.
- More than 500,000 Afghan returnees from Pakistan have been registered since 15 September 2023.
- An estimated 3.25 million people are experiencing long-term displacement, the second largest figure in the world.
- The United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan estimates that in 2024, 23.7 Million People will be in Humanitarian Need and 3.1 billion dollars will be required.
- One in three Afghans is projected to face an emergency level of food insecurity in 2024. More than three million children under five are malnourished.
- 147,000 SIV applications remain to be processed as of Q4 2023.
- The current number of Afghan P2s who were ordered to leave Pakistan is unknown.